Thursday, October 16, 2008

dice gulag, how sweet it could be

If I was a septuagenarian or above I'd be in love with a man named William "Whitey" Roberts. Not only does this 75-year-old (pictured at left courtesy of the Washington Post) collect old-school slot machines in his basement (!), but he's all no-nonsense, like a pair of decent, well-priced nylons. That is, there ain't no rips in his logic.

Not sure if anyone's been following this (I certainly haven't!), but apparently Maryland is trying to re-introduce slot machines as an avenue to collect additional state revenues to pay for education, or so the government says.

On the surface, that sounds like a win-win: People can get their gamble on while the state collects much-needed money to help children or whatever. But check it, Whitey, as quoted in the Washington Post, don't play that (literally):

"I love slots, but it has to be honest," he says. "This is a farce. To take the money from slots and just spread it around the state government isn't being straight. They say the money goes for schools, but it's also going for everything else the state does, and a whole lot of it is going to the horse industry. If horse racing can't sustain itself, it should be gone. If I had a shoe shop here and I was failing, they wouldn't carve out a piece of the slots for me."

Bless his freedom-loving heart. But Whitey longs for more than just free markets. He longs for the good old days when gangsters and mobs ran Maryland's gambling outlets; the good old days before those hypocritical government fat cats shut 'em down in 1969.

"As soon as all that was gone," Roberts says, "the government went into the numbers racket. They started with the lottery, and now there's the scratch-off cards and the keno. The government now controls everything the mob used to control. Everything that was so bad for us -- the numbers, the slot machines -- everything that they shut down because they said it was hurting the poor people, is now perfectly okay because it's run by the government. Sorry, I'm not buying it."

Stick it to today's man, for real, my elderly friend. You are correct. If anyone should profit off of poor people, it should be mobsters and gangs like they did in golden ages of yesteryear. That, indeed, is the American dream. And while it seems that I'm being a bit facetious here, I'm actually not. OK, I am a little, but I see Whitey's point: Gambling is dirrrrrty, in a good way. Or, at least it should be in its truest form. (Hello, street dice!)

Not only that, but it's pretty much a proven fact that state-run lotteries (and, by association, slots) are a huge sham, luring basically those who don't make minimum wage to invest their welfare or social security checks in a couple of scratch-off tickets hoping to get lucky, only to be taxed again if they actually win. Glorious!

Slots are only slightly different than playing the numbers, in that both take very little talent and skill. And even more so than scratch-offs, which can really only be bought at gas stations or where there's an actual person working to sell them, slots, being self-contained and mechanized, have the potential to pop up just about anywhere -- the Metro, the lobby of your office building, the mall, your neighborhood bar, the park, the alley around the corner, the lobby of your apartment building, the bathroom and anywhere else someone with a quarter is likely to stroll by. And while I'm the last person to condemn a gambler (after all, I am the person that spent last Thanksgiving in Atlantic City and will probably spend this Thanksgiving in Foxwoods), the computerized sounds of a slot machine should not coincide with waiting for the bus. Seriously, where's the fun, mystique and moderately criminal leit motif in that?

Gambling without the flashing lights, crazy themed interior, cigar-puffing high-rollers and free liquor is basically Moscow, Russia -- the gross part of it.

Moscow had the most unfortunate problem of having slot machines everywhere. And while it made for some timeless comic relief seeing that slots is pronounced more like sluts in Russian (i.e. imagine the lulz an establishment called Super-Slots can induce from a person with the humor of a 14-year-old boy), it did not make for a pleasant atmosphere. Not only were these corner establishments ugly and annoying, but the clientele they attracted -- the drunkest of the homeless -- certainly did not benefit, unless losing valuable money for legit booze and instead having to turn to shoe polish is considered a plus.

Speaking of not benefiting, even the Kremlin noticed how gnarly wayward slot machines are to Russia's image, which is why Russian President Prime Minister Putin proposed in 2006 to exile all slot machines to a couple of cities in the Far East. I like to think of it as a gulag for dice; a kind of Russian Las Vegas, as it were, but several times an oil oligarch's salary more crazy + one Putin! Holy sh*t. My brain just melted.

No seriously. My brain just flinched or something at the thought of throwing down at the craps table with Putin. It might have been the best image ever to flutter across my largely blank mind. Bitch better not act like McCain does at the tables, though. That kind of poor sportsmanship just wouldn't cut it at the Dice Gulag.


Boomhauer said...

I know that when I stare into Putin's eyes, I want to see the Hard Six, never mind his soul.

Jack said...

I would never play craps with Putin. If I ever win he would either kick my ass, have me killed or both. Now, robbing banks, that's a better scam than lotteries...


Stevious said...

State run lotteries/slots = a tax on hope.

Gilahi said...

A tax on hope? I had always heard it was a tax on people who can't do math.

On the other hand a neighbor of mine once said, "I understand that the chances of me winning are 1 in 230 million, but if I don't buy a ticket, my odds are 0 in 230 million."

maryjanejeff said...

Yeah, you beat Putin too much or embarrass him, or heck win too much money even playing $2 slots, never mind black jack, and you can mysteriously disappear, fall out your window, or drink too much bad water.

Marissa said...


Comment of the week, for serious.


The beauty of craps is that you would never play against Putin. However, if you lose...then he would lose...and then you'd be polonium'd.






Or get a roundhouse judo kick to the face. Float like a Putin, sting like a Putin.